“AL-KO Technology Lithuania”: the cradle of ideas in Kaunas exports innovations
Photo by: “AL-KO Technology Lithuania”
A variety of people in engineering specialties and the opportunity to attract the talents needed for the development of innovations was one of the main reasons why German company “AL-KO Vehicle Technology” decided to establish a branch in Kaunas. This decision was also influenced by the growing automobile and motor transport sector cluster in the region which demonstrates that this location might become one of the future automotive industry centers. However, according to Justinas Balodis, Head of the “AL-KO Technology Lithuania” division, the company stands out from other automotive investors in the Kaunas region, because it does not sell or manufacture goods but cares about creation and development of innovations. “We are the real cradle of new ideas,” he says.
Export of intelligent services
Operating near Kaunas for almost a year, “AL-KO Technology Lithuania”, a product development and research center, is owned by “ALOIS KOBER GmbH”, one of the largest chassis components supplier in Europe.
“Our research center in Lithuania collaborates directly with AL-KO. We are a division of the development department that creates and tests electronics and mechatronics products, and we are definitely going to expand and grow,” says Justinas Balodis, Head of “AL-KO Technology Lithuania”.
According to him, one of the main tasks for the new unit was to form a strong and professional core team: to attract highly skilled employees who have experience in the development of new products and process management.
“Everything we export is an intelligent service and creative products, so it’s no wonder that people who have such a job need to be highly qualified. Today, I can rejoice that we have managed to find and form a strong team of six people with whom we have quickly integrated into the AL-KO company,” J. Balodis tells us about the beginning of their work.
Creates automotive security systems
Since February, six people working at “AL-KO Technology Lithuania” have been developing products to ensure vehicle safety.
“Imagine a car pulling a trailer or a caravan. When driving at higher speeds or during changing weather conditions, the balance of the vehicle may be disturbed, causing the trailer to start dangerously swinging. If you have a great deal of experience, you will probably be able to control the vehicle, but most people do not have this kind of experience, so we create systems that, after having determined that the amplitude of swinging is not safe, switches on a braking system that tracks and balances the entire trailer, while you continue driving without stress,” J. Balodis talks about one of the products created by Kaunas residents.
Tomorrow’s solutions for the automotive industry
Even before announcing the establishment in Kaunas, AL-KO shared plans to employ about 30 people in the new center during first three years. According to the director, the team will be soon joined by new people – specialists in their field.
“In the long run, we will need not only electronics specialists. The AL-KO unit in Lithuania should play a more prominent role as an innovation center which means that we will concentrate not only on electronics and pure mechanics but also on mechatronics.
We need to become an innovation center that builds tomorrow’s car industry solutions and proposes how to implement them. We do not sell physical goods, we do not produce item A and item B. Here, in the center of “AL-KO Technology Lithuania”, we are producing “ideas” – we are the real cradle of ideas. That is how we differ from other companies coming to Lithuania: we do not transfer elementary production but appreciate intellectual potential, which is able to develop innovative solutions, generate technologically advanced ideas and implement them with a highest quality.”
The way was paved by joint projects with the university
Interestingly, AL-KO’s research and product testing activities in Kaunas began well before the establishment of the division. As the head of “AL-KO Technology Lithuania” says, even without having a team in Kaunas, the company has already cooperated with the Kaunas University of Technology: “An electronic components project was implemented with the help of the university, and during this project, a prototype was developed and made into a working example. At the end of the first contract, the German company was very pleased with this cooperation. Therefore, even after establishing a unit in Lithuania, we are going to continue cooperating with the university while creating products which have to be tested because it is really beneficial.”
Currently, mechatronics and electronics specialists are most welcome in the AL-KO, but in the future, it is planned to invite young and novice people.
“This autumn, during student career fair, we were convinced that young people are interested in writing bachelor or master theses together with our company. Of course, these works should be related to the issues that is important to our center and the activity of AL-KO,” says J. Balodis. According to him, the company undertakes not only to give students enough time but also to provide access to the necessary equipment in the modern “AL-KO Technology Lithuania” laboratory, and, if necessary, to provide a physical workplace.